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As many of my readers know, we have a new strategic vision for the University that includes a number of interesting elements. One feature, which I’ve written about before, implies a commitment to growth which we’re now trying to translate into more specific strategic planning. A related feature involves inclusiveness. Our President notes publicly that in contrast to the typical university that brags about how many people it leaves out, we want to figure out how many we can responsibly embrace.

To avoid any confusion, I think that’s a splendid goal, to which I subscribe fully.

It does make us a bit different from many schools to which we would otherwise like to compare ourselves. I was reminded of this tension today when we went over our report to US News. The US News survey has a clear category that invites ambitious schools to increase the number of applicants so that a lower and lower percentage will be accepted. That is not our game, and we need to be clear that on this point, as on some others, we’re charting our own course and will have our own sources of pride.

Of course, inclusiveness is not intended to be open enrollment. It is irresponsible deliberately to admit students who are unlikely to make the grade, and we are not doing this. In point of fact, over the past decade, the on-paper qualifications of our entering students have gone up, particularly in terms of high school grade average, and I don’t think anyone is advocating reversing this. The only question might be whether we still strive to some further incremental changes, or merely seek stability, and that’s a discussion still to come.

Our real educational mission is to take able students from a variety of backgrounds—not, however, selected toward maximum exclusivity—and then provide an education that serves them well and adds clear value. It’s worth noting—and this is another US News observation—that we already retain and graduate students at higher rates than the survey would predict, which probably means that the survey is unduly snobbish but arguably also means that we already do a superior job in education and related support. I think this is an achievement in which we can take pride, and which we can use as a spur to even better results in future.

All of which reiterates the point that we have, and can extend, goals that are much more interesting than finding out how many applications we can attract and reject.